By Scott Tibbs, January 14, 2008
I sent the following open letter to Jack Thompson, a Florida "attorney" known for his jihad against video games.
John B. Thompson, Attorney
1172 South Dixie Highway, Suite 111
Coral Gables, Florida 33146-2750
I have been playing video games for over 25 years, starting with the Atari 2600, and then to the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2. Starting with Mortal Kombat in the early 1990's, there has been a campaign against video game violence by politicians such as U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and activists such as you. As a gamer, I have closely followed this criticism, and especially threats to have government regulate these games.
I recently purchased the video game Bully, which prompted me to write this letter to you. As Rockstar Games was preparing to release Bully in 2006, you referred to the game as a "Columbine simulator". Bully received a rating of T, the equivalent of a PG-13 rating for a movie. As you well know, two students at the high school in Columbine walked into the school with firearms on April 20, 1999 and coldly slaughtered several students and teachers. The nation was shocked by this senseless act of violence and much was said about preventing another such massacre.
The events of the Bully video game are not even in the same solar system as the Columbine massacre, much less in the same ballpark. Is the game violent? With multiple fistfights throughout the game, the answer is yes. However, no human beings are killed in the game, and there are no firearms in the game. To call the game a "columbine simulator" is more than an exaggeration, Mr. Thompson. It is a lie. This statement may offend you. However, you should remember that when you say something that is not true, and you know that what you are saying is not true, you are lying. That makes you a liar, Mr. Thompson.
Given that you are an attorney, this should concern people. After all, our judicial system must be based on facts, and decisions made by judges or juries must be based on factual information. When you call Bully a "Columbine simulator", many people will assume that the player uses firearms to kill other human characters in the game. This simply is not the case, and you know it. When you lie so openly in a public campaign against a video game, how can a judge or jury be sure you are not lying when you present a case to them on another matter? How do they know you are not simply making things up? This does great harm to your credibility as an attorney.
Mr. Thompson, I would like you to consider for a moment the victims of Columbine, who you cynically exploited with your campaign against Bully. When you claim that a game that features no firearms and where no human characters are killed is a "Columbine simulator", how do you think the survivors of Columbine feel? Have you gone to Columbine, looked into the eyes of parents who have lost a child, and claim that the low level of violence in a "T" (PG-13) rated game "simulates" the carnage of April 20, 1999? The disrespect you showed for the victims, survivors, and victims' families is sickening. To enhance your own career, you effectively desecrated the graves of everyone who died at Columbine.
I do not deny that some video games are inappropriate for children, and that parents should use discretion in which video games they purchase. But it is not your place to play the role of Mommy for every child in America by abusing the legal system to prevent the release of a "T" (PG-13) rated video game. When you brazenly lie about the content of the game and disrespect the victims of a tragedy, your behavior becomes even more inexcusable. You have been described as a "conservative", but as a conservative myself I fail to see how content-based censorship can in any way be described as "conservative".
I could say a lot more, Mr. Thompson, especially as it relates to the level of violence and sexual content in video games as compared to other forms of entertainment such as movies. But I will instead close with a challenge. If you have any integrity at all, Mr. Thompson, you will do the following three things. First, you will apologize to the victims of Columbine for cynically exploiting them. Second, you will apologize to Rockstar Games for the campaign of character assassination you waged against the developers of the game. Finally, you will promise to tell the truth in any future criticism of the video game industry. Are you man enough to admit your lie and apologize for it?